Leading a new generation – Blended learning
Blended learning. What it is, and how your learning environment will need to change to accommodate it.
Learning is changing. With the recent onslaught of digital and wireless devices, learning can now be undertaken from anywhere at any time. The traditional method of teacher + classroom + homework = results is now becoming outdated, and has been replaced by a richer, more collaborative approach to learning.
The traditional classroom design was initiated in the industrial revolution and is no longer ideally suited to educate the students of today. Classrooms need to change to keep up with developments in technology and society.
There are many different methods and styles of learning. In this blog post we’re going to focus on blended learning; what it is and how your learning environment should be adapted to accommodate it.
What is Blended Learning?
Blended learning is a style of learning that combines online and face-to-face learning to create a more student-led learning experience.
Blended learning offers the learner greater flexibility and an element of self-direction. It gives students freedom of choice, and empowers them to take greater ownership of their learning journey. In our information-rich society, Google, for better or worse, now knows more than the teacher. Through the internet, students have easy instant access to detailed information and knowledge about any given subject.
In the blended learning method, the role of the teacher changes, and they move from being the ‘Sage on the Stage’ to more of a ‘Guide on the side’. The teacher’s main role is to facilitate the gaining of knowledge and understanding of information. Course content also flips; Student research, background reading, subject specific videos and digestion of course material is done outside of the lesson, whilst subject specific assignments and projects are worked on during lesson time.
Blended learning has many benefits. It helps to better prepare students for life beyond school. Problem solving and creativity are valued, as students are encouraged down a path of discovery to arrive at the answers they need.
This new method of learning allows teachers to personalise the learning journey to the needs of the student. Students can work at their own pace, with more or less help from the teacher as is required.
Teachers can use a wide variety of multi-media formats in which to share information. Social media, video tutorials and collaboration portals can all be tapped into to offer students a varied and rich learning journey.
Blended learning, in theory, can be completed from anywhere at any time, and is ideally suited to older students and sixth-formers. However, more forward thinking schools are implementing similar methods of learning for younger students. The benefits are manifest in a more responsible learner, one that is constantly challenging, creating and discovering.
To accommodate blended learning, a traditionally designed classroom with rows of desks and chairs is unproductive and ineffective. A blended learning environment looks and functions very differently to a traditional classroom.
The blended learning environment
When implementing blended learning, there are 3 core pillars to focus on:
1. Physical environment
The classroom design for the blended learning model is very different to a traditional classroom.
The learning environment is suited to the needs of the users, and must therefore reflect a range of different spaces that suit a number of tasks.
Collaboration spaces: These spaces are for group working, collaboration and peer-to-peer instruction. Likely to be more brightly coloured, with easy access to digital screens or whiteboards.
Individual working zones – ideal for more introvert students. These tend to be situated away from high traffic areas. Acoustic screening helps to keep noise levels down. These are areas that students can use to really concentrate on the task in hand.
Spaces for small groups or pairs to work uninterrupted. The railway carriage or similar small meeting booth offers a great space for small group work, or some quiet individual working.
Whole-class collaboration. There are times when the teacher may need to bring the class together. These spaces can be created by moving seating and tables together. Alternatively, bleacher seating makes a great environment for when the students come together in a larger group.
Reconfigurable spaces. The blended learning method is so flexible, that it helps if furniture can be moved around. Desks and tables that can be easily moved and reconfigured allow the teacher to personalise the classroom, and bring variety into the learning journey.
‘In Between’ or Intermediate Spaces. Learning and collaboration spaces can be created in corridors and other places too!
Learning Commons. Aside from the blended learning classroom, many schools are also implementing learning commons spaces. These are an updated version of a typical library. Learning Commons are used for digital research, discovery and collaboration, and are typically bright airy spaces.
Aside from the different zones, special attention needs to be paid to other aspects of the design:
Acoustics: A blended learning environment can be noisy in places. It’s important that you have acoustic protection in areas that need to be quiet.
Colours: Colour psychology is important when designing learning spaces. There is a plethora of research about how colours affect learning. Ensure you choose colours and textures that help your students to do their best.
Lighting: Creating the right light levels in your blended learning environment is very important. It’s easy to forget how important daylight is on student achievement.
Furniture: Furniture needs to be comfortable, durable and stylish, as well as suited to the needs of the learners.
2. Digital environment
Blended learning cannot be successfully implemented without a robust IT system. Individual student devices are a must. As are collaboration portals, and a forum where teachers can communicate with students to set coursework, share resources and give feedback.
Within the classroom environment, students will need to stay connected. WiFi connectivity, power sources and collaboration hardware all need to be considered.
3. Behavioural environment
Successful implementation of a more modern style of learning also comes with it’s challenges. Student discipline and motivation needs to be carefully managed. The learning journey is partly self-managed, and a good measure of success is the amount of work students invest outside of school hours.
Aside from student motivation, teaching staff also need to be bought alongside, ensuring they can and will co-operate with the system to achieve the best possible results.
Bringing it all together
A more collaborative approach learning has been proven to give better results. However, it all depends on a successful implementation strategy.
Here at Envoplan we specialise in helping schools to bring their learning environments up to date, bridging the gap between architects and the end users of your space. We want your students and teachers achieve better results. Our unique evidence-based design approach empowers you to create a learning environment that will set your school apart.
Our team are ready to help you through your blended learning journey. Why not book in a phone call or meeting with one of our learning environment specialists. We’ll talk through your strategy with you and work closely with you, helping you achieve the most successful outcome from your project.
Are you ready to implement blended learning?
Contact us on 020 8997 9868 or firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to chat through your vision and help you create a cohesive blended learning strategy.